Seeking Spice in Japan 11: Tempura Yaoki, Kyoto
A bit farther north from Nishiki Market in central Kyoto, on the same kind of dark and tight side road as Gogyo Ramen, one can also find Tempura Yaoki.
I have a thing for tempura; it’s such a nice tale of food adoption that belies the discussions of cultural appropriation now so common. Such a simple-yet-not food, too.
So, tempura it was to be.
After the one at Kamachiku in Tokyo, which hadn’t even been supposed to play the central role there, it felt necessary to try tempura somewhere else as well.
Whether the story of the owner of Yaoki having his own little place to grow the vegetables is true, I don’t know. Reviews seemed somewhat mixed, too, but I’m quite ready to forget about those, for the most part. Too many people writing too many stupid things.
It sounded good to me and I wanted to try.
There was hardly anyone else there as I went, but there seemed hardly anyone anywhere in eateries. Still too early for dinner? Don’t know, didn’t care, it still looked like a nice place.
The rather young cook on duty at that time was busy preparing various dishes for the customers which were there, and I got a place at the counter with a look to all the action.
Charcoals glowing, blowtorch used to finish something off. Interesting work, that alone.
Simplicity won the struggle over what to order. I knew I wanted tempura, so I just ordered a omakase. The “Chef, you decide.”
With tempura, this is at least as good a choice as with sushi. Chances are good, you will get and try something this way that you wouldn’t otherwise order – but should try.
The tempura had the usual shrimp, some fish, various vegetables – and oh, perfect for me, one of the vegetables was a pepper which I am pretty sure was Shishitou. Which tasted perfectly, used in tempura!
It was all excellent. Not as good as that in Kamachiku, but it might have been only the smoky salt they had which I was missing here.
The mixture made it very noticeable how Japan also (like Chinese cuisine) plays with “mouth feel” of ingredients quite a bit. Tempura always has its crunch (when it is well-made and freshly served), but then fish is softer, shrimp more chewy, pumpkin is nearly melt-in-the-mouth, carrot overall more crunchy…
(In Japanese: 天ぷら 八百起)
Price range 1000-2000 JPY
Open Mo-Fr 5:30 pm – 4:00 am, Sun 5:30 pm – 12:00 am (?)
Middling number of seats